It’s true.  A lot of stuff has happened since Christmas.  It’s not showing any sign of letting up, either.  I’m still grappling with side-effects and consequences.

But I thought I’d stop by to say Hello, specially as this is posting number 600.

Yes I know.
SIX HUNDRED.  How did that happen?




Is there anybody still there?

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The way we were...5 years ago...

Today marks the first anniversary since our wonderful Hildie died.

So I thought it would be nice to post the text of an email I received from her dughter Kelly a few days ago.

 'Hi Ian
Just a quick news bulletin to let you know our baby boy arrived on 20th Jan, we have named him Albie Christopher Adair, he weighed 9lb 1oz and is already looking like he'll be tall! I had a lovely calm home birth in a water pool, just as we had hoped. How lovely it was to just go up to our own bed with our new addition!
The last few weeks have been a whirlwind to say the least! Nothing quite prepares you for this, hard work but amazing.
Anyway, Albie needs a feed so I'll send this now. Hope you are in good fettle!
Kel xxx'

When Kelly sends a photo, I'll post that, too!

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Kathy Secker

Kathy Secker, who died just before Christmas, would be deeply embarrassed to hear me calling her a broadcasting goddess but that’s exactly what she was.  She had the knack - shamefully rare in tv and radio broadcasters - of making viewers and listeners feel important, valued and even loved.  She didn’t talk at us; she engaged us in conversation, listened to us and responded like a best friend.

And these are not just empty and predictable eulogising platitudes.  This is how Kathy was, in private as well as in public.  It’s a shame that charisma like hers cannot be emulated or learned; it has to come naturally, and it did.

I have just attended her funeral and left wishing I had known her much better than I did.

This is the verse her daughter chose to recite for us there.  It was written by Joyce Grenfell.

'If I should go before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone
Nor when I'm gone speak in a Sunday voice
But be the usual selves that I have known
Weep if you must
Parting is hell
But life goes on
So sing as well.'
My visit to Paris had been planned well before the horrors of 13 November.  In an annual ritual that goes back many years now, I go there every mid-December to pay my respects at the tomb of Saint-Saëns in Montparnasse Cemetery; he is my favourite composer and a personal hero, the anniversary of whose death falls on 16 December.
His is a family, 'sentry-box', sepulchre - very common in France - and this is the interior.  Other visitors have left flowers for his anniversary; for some unaccountable reason, I always leave an apple.  You can see it on the right of 'altar' shelf.

His memorial tablet

This burial took place while I was there.  The granite 'tabletop' had to be moved aside - no easy task - so that the coffin could be lowered  - upright - into the family vault below.
The Saint-Saëns family sepulchre is at the top, second from left.

Amongst the more usual tabletop and sentry-box graves there are some rarer and more idiosyncratic memorials.  This striking tomb belongs to Sylvia Lopez, a model and actress who died in 1958.  
 Hers was a proverbial household name at the time but her life was cut short by leukemia; she was only 26 when she died.

Just across the avenue from Ms Lopez lie the remains of Maryse Bastié, a pioneering aviator who set or beat many flying records during the 1930s - including a first solo flight across the South Atlantic.
She flew for France during the Second World War and, like Saint-Saëns, was awarded the Legion of Honour.  She died in 1952.

This isn't a grave at all; it's a sculpture by de Max called The Separation of a Couple.  Death is drawing a woman into her tomb as she blows a final kiss to her grief-stricken husband.  De Max made it for the nearby Luxembourg Gardens but, for some reason, it was regarded as 'too obscene' and was moved here in 1965.
I love looking at it - even though it could do with a good clean-up.

This is the flamboyant tomb of sculptor César Baldaccini, who died in 1998.  Each year, on the anniversary of his death, a white camellia is placed in his left hand.
This is the most unadorned gravestone I came across.  Under it lies Yves Haguel, who died in 2009.  I haven't been able to find out anything about him - unless he was a scion of the Haguel company of solicitors in Paris, which is what comes up if you Google his name...
The art of cinema was invented in France - I have visited the home of the Lumiére brothers in Lyon several times.
Under this extraordinary tombstone, decorated with movie stills and film reels, lie the remains of cinephile Henri Langlois, an early pioneer in film preservation and archiving.  
He co-founded the Cinémàtheque Française and was given an honorary Academy Award in 1974 for his work in, and love of, cinema.  He died in 1977.

This man's grave describes him as an 'illustrator, humorist, journalist, novelist, author and playwright', but it fails to give his name.  Which is sad, because the words on the headstone translate as:
He was above religions that make men fight;
He - he had found the best one;
He loved everyone.
 Love each other and pray for him
According to your faith. 

This is perhaps the most visited grave in Montparnasse Cemetery.  Jean-Paul Sartre (who died in 1980) and Simone de Beauvoir (1986) are buried here.  There are always pebbles strewn over the foot of the grave like this - interspersed with used Metro tickets (a peculiarly charming Parisian tradition of showing respect at the graves of the famous).

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